3 teens sentenced for random murder, armed robbery of Dearborn woman

Kara Berg
The Detroit News

Detroit — Saja Aljanabi moved with her family to Dearborn to escape conflict in the Middle East and pursue the American dream, her brother said.

The 29-year-old woman had just passed her driver's test and was excited about getting a car, her brother, Ali Aljanabi, said Friday. She was preparing to take the test to become a U.S. citizen.

That dream was shattered when Saja was killed in September 2019 by three teenagers, a 13-year-old, then-14-year-old Demaurio Dismuke and then-17-year-old Jamel Philson. Saja's murder was a rare violent crime in the city.

Demaurio Dismuke of Detroit, left, and Jamel Marquise Philson of Detroit listen to the court proceeding before their sentencing at Frank Murphy Hall of Justice. Both received 16-30 years in prison for second-degree murder.

Dismuke and Philson were sentenced Friday to 16 to 30 years in prison for second-degree murder. Dismuke will have to serve an additional two years consecutive to the murder sentence for having a gun while committing the crime.

The then-13-year-old was charged as an adult-designated juvenile and was convicted of two counts of armed robbery and one count of felony firearm. The murder charge was dismissed. He was given a blended sentence of juvenile probation and an adult delayed sentence, but prosecutors allege he violated his probation and have asked the judge to reconsider his sentence.

On the night of Sept. 6, 2019, the three teens went on an "extremely callous crime spree" that left a trail of destruction in their wake, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in 2019 after charges were filed.

These are portraits of Saja Aljanabi at her make-shift memorial on Bingham St.

The teens robbed a 49-year-old woman at 9:35 p.m. in the 7000 block of Steadman Street, according to a 2019 press release from the prosecutor's office. Less than 20 minutes later, police were sent to the 7840 block of Bingham Street, where they found Saja on the ground near her car with a gunshot wound. She died on the way to the hospital, Ali Aljanabi told the Detroit News in 2019.

As the teens fled after robbing and shooting Saja, Dismuke shot at a 56-year-old man, according to prosecutors. Prosecutors said the 13-year-old also had a gun that night.

Ali Aljanabi said Saja would help anyone, and likely would have helped the teens if they had asked her that night.

"Sadly, one of the defendants took the bad decision to end her life," Ali Aljanabi said.

Mohammad Aljanabi, left, and Ali Aljanabi, brothers of shooting victim, Saja Aljanabi, says prayers at their sister's memorial.

Saja was shot just outside the family home in Dearborn, Ali Aljanabi told the Detroit News after his sister was killed. He heard the "crack" of the gunshot, then his brother burst into his room in tears to tell him Saja had been shot. He tried to give her CPR, but there was so much blood he couldn't tell where to put pressure.

Zainab Aljanabi, sister of shooting victim Saja Aljanabi, puts her hands over her face as she cries at the make-shift memorial of her slain sister. 

Family members and close-family friends mourn the loss of Saja Aljanabi, Sunday afternoon, September 8, 2019, as they light candles around her memorial on Bingham St. near Morross in Dearborn. Saja was shot to death while she sat in her brother's car, here, as she came to visit the family, Friday night.

After Saja's death, their family's life changed "emotionally, financially and mentally." Every time he goes to the cemetery to visit his sister, he breaks down in tears. It still feels like she was just killed yesterday, he said.

"You’ll always be missed and you’ll always be loved," Ali Aljanabi said.